Dan Devine took a giant step toward erasing the shadow of Ara Parseghian today as Notre Dame scored a resounding 49-19 victory over fourth-ranked Southern California.
It was as much a mismatch as the score indicated Southern California at times appeared intimidated by the fired up Irish.
Devine, under constant pressure to produce a national chamption at Notre Dame since succeeding Parseghian 2 1/2 seasons ago called today "the most satisfying victory of my career, but the last one always is.
"We all knew Wednesday we were going to win. We just didn't know how . I was very confident. I just tried not to show it.
"All that's been said about this team hasn't affected us at all," he added. "It only brought us closer together and we showed it today."
Devine was referring to reports of racial discord on the Irish team and the ever-present stories that Devine will be dumped at the end of the season if the Irish don't end up as No. 1.
But Devine and his players.
Quarterback Joe Montana threw for two touchdowns and ran for two; Ken MacAfee showed why he is an All-America tight end with two touchdown catches, and Ross Browner, Luther Bradley and Bob Golie led an Irish defense that frustrated the Trojans.
Even kick-holder Ted Burgmeier got into the act, as he turned in two brilliant first-half plays, breaking the Trojans' back.
Burgmeier, also a starting cornerback, turned a bad snap on an extra point attempt into a two-point conversion pass to give the Irish a 15-7 lead with 2:37 left in the half.
Now needing two scores, instead of one to get back into the game. USC tried to get one quick. But Bradley picked off a Rob Hertel pass that was deflected by Browner less than a minute later. That gave Notre Dame the ball at Trojan 37.
On first down. Montana lofted a good pass to Jerome Heavens, only to see the ball go in and out of his hands at the five-yard line.
The mostly partisan crowd of 59,075 started howling when the Irish ran their next two plays into the middle of the line, apparently content to try a field goal.
Kicker Dave Reeve set his tee on the 40-yard line, but Burgmeier took the snap, faked the placement try and raced 21 yards around right end to the Trojan 13-yard line with 28 seconds left.
On the next play. Montana hit MaeAfee with a touchdown pass. Reeve'ss kick gave the Irish 22-7 lead of the half.
Notre Dame scored four more touchdowns in the second half.
One came off a blocked punt and another after the Trojans, clawing desperately to catch up, failed on a fourth-down play from their 13-yard line.
The Trojans were so overmatched today, that even two of the three touchdowns they scored were gifts.
Notre Dame marched 80 yards on its first possession for a 7-0 lead, but let the Trojans tie the game early in the second period.
Marty King's punt and a personal foul against the Irish backed 11th-ranked Notre Dame to its three.
On first down, fullback Terry Eurich, running up the middle, had the ball knocked loose by Ty Sperling, Mario Celotto grabbed it in the air and rumbled five yards into the end zone.
Then with Notre Dame ahead.35.7, David Mitchell fumbled to the Trojans at this 25. That set up a three-yard touchdown run by Lynn Cain.
The Trojans now 5-2, finally earned a touchdown with 24:21 left when Hertel took them on a 75-yard drive with the score coming on a 14-yard pass to Calvin Sweeney.
Notre Dame, now 5-1 is back in the running for a major bowl bid and jigh national ranking, especially with No. 1 ranked Michigan falling to Minnesota.
The Irish have five games left, against Navy, George Tech. Chemson, Air Force and Miami